live from Singapore Airlines flight SQ232

The coolest thing about this post, in my mind, is not only that I’m writing it in the air, but that I’m posting it from the air as well. Singapore Airlines has not only 120 V AC power points at each seat in economy, but wireless Internet available on the aircraft. Of course this is expensive, as it’s fed by satellite link: about US$1/MB. I don’t have a particularly good feel for how much data a post to Antipodal Points would require, but I’m willing to pay $10 just to say I posted to my blog from above the Pacific Ocean. Past me would have called present me a ninny for this, and future me may also, but what the hell, live in the moment.

So far in my academic globetrotting career I’ve flown mostly either Southwest (US destinations) or United (international destinations). I’ve been with United’s loyalty program for a long time, since graduate school, and I haven’t really shopped around for other airlines since then, until now — although I have it from reliable sources that US airlines generally suck, and I’m starting to see some of that firsthand.

I still have text written for an unpublished blog post about my Christmas travel woes on United last year, but I’m not sure I need to go into that much detail except maybe some misplaced schadenfreude and a narcissistic enjoyment of my own verbal cleverness. The short version is that they cancelled my first flight with virtually no advance notice, but they did get me there — by 9:30 PM on Christmas Eve. When Emily and I flew to California recently for my brother’s wedding (of which more when I have the chance), United cancelled again, but because of my elite status they booked us both on a Qantas flight which left an hour earlier than our scheduled flight. Em quickly stopped making fun of me for wanting to be at the airport three hours early.

Qantas, which Em describes as an “ok” airline, has aircraft which smell new, plenty of leg room with seats that feel like they go back twice as far as United’s do, and a huge library of on-demand entertainment available on an individual small LCD screen at your seat. They also pass out little “surprises” from time to time, in the form of ice cream bars, breath mints, and similar. The airline food was not only palatable but what I would actually call good, and all the booze was free. Single malt Scotch, free!…

(…Or perhaps I should say “at no extra charge”. It would amaze me if all this extra service wasn’t reflected in the price of the ticket, but at least in this case I didn’t have to worry. The extra attention made the difference; I was still exhausted, but I was having fun from the sheer novelty of being able to play Tetris and Street Fighter II on my in-flight screen. This made Em giggle throughout the flight.)

On this trip I’m going around the world in the other direction, so the Star Alliance partner of choice is not United, but Singapore. So far, besides the power point and wireless, they’ve fed me ice cream and they’re now thoughtfully scrounging up a vegetarian lunch for me even though my meal preference doesn’t seem to have gone through from the travel agent. I’m in an exit row so I have all the leg room I could possibly want; this is also the “family-friendly” section, but the small children are gainfully occupied and the babies are asleep in bassinets (another thing I’ve never seen on an airplane before!).

Since the Internet is expensive, I’ll probably use the rest of my budget to check my RSAA email, which is ASCII only (another reason to be glad I haven’t yet quit using pine). I fully expect the rest of this flight to be comfortable and productive, so I’ll check in later when I get the chance.


About Richard

I'm an American scientist who is building a new life in Australia. This space will contain words about science and math, but also philosophy, policy, literature, my travels, occasional rants, all sorts of things I find strange and awesome. The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the opinions of my employer at the time (currently University of Sydney), though personally, I think they should.
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